Wheelchair-bound rapper wants people with disabilities to 'stand up'
When this year's National Day Parade (NDP) reaches its fourth act, sound engineer and music producer Danial Bawthan, who has muscular dystrophy and goes by the moniker Wheelsmith, will be rapping "stand up, Lion City, stand up".
The 25-year-old, who uses a wheelchair, hopes his presence onstage can be a defining moment for people with disabilities.
"Ultimately, I want people to know that we don't just sell tissue. There are others out there who are doing things too.
"I am just hoping the next generation of people with disabilities would look at what they really want deep inside and then pursue it," he told The Straits Times recently.
Along with fellow rappers Yung Raja, 23, and Fariz Jabba, 22, Wheelsmith will be among seven musicians in the first-ever segment devoted to rap and hip-hop music at the NDP.
In Act 4: Our Nation, the music will be interspersed with short films by multimedia director Royston Tan that tell the stories of ordinary Singaporeans overcoming adversity, such as Wheelsmith himself, 90-year-old World War II survivor Helen Joseph, and ex-convict and social entrepreneur Anil David, 51.
It will be the first NDP outing for all three rappers. They started writing their own rap lyrics for the act after their first meeting with NDP music director Sydney Tan in February.
Wheelsmith, who may eventually lose his voice due to his condition that causes progressive loss of muscle mass, hopes to be a catalyst for change.
"I feel like I am running this kind of Black Panther movement where I am setting our rights - like this is our right to pursue things," he said, referring to last year's blockbuster movie that featured a predominantly African-American cast.
"I mean, nobody discriminates (against us), but within ourselves, there is a boundary that we have, (we have) shunted ourselves."
The others artists involved in the rap and hip-hop segment on Aug 9 are Bani Hadir, Beverly Morata, Mel Ferdinands and Robert Fernando.
Performing with them at the Padang will be some 600 young people from the Singapore Soka Association with drums that will light up in sync with the LED wristbands given to the audience.
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